Zimbabwe: Coup, Uphold Rights, Improve the economy

What has happened in Zimbabwe is a coup. It may turn out to be a coup many welcome as the least worst option but it is nevertheless is a coup. The perpetrators have stated it is not a coup but it looks, feels and sounds like a coup. The military have acted in their view to protect and preserve public order but that is the reason perpetrators of coups give for their intervention. The trigger seems to have been the statement by Zanu PF that the head of the army General Constantino Chiwenga’s comments following the dismissal by President Mugabe of his Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa were tantamount to treason. The army seems to have acted in a form of preventative action to stop Chiwenga being dismissed. The army says the president and his family are safe and being protected. This raises the question protected from who? His own family? The so-called criminal elements around him? The security service?

Why are the perpetrators desperate for this not to be seen as a coup? Because if it is a coup then Zimbabwe should automatically be suspended from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and SADC would be challenged to intervene to uphold the constitution. SADC is desperate not to intervene in Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe military equally don’t want external involvement, and wish to be seen as in some way upholding the constitutional proprieties.

Some say it is not a coup as Mugabe remains Head of State, that it is more about internal infighting in Zanu PF. The military action is certainly intended to influence and decide the leadership of Zanu PF but first this will involve Mugabe rescinding his decision to dismiss Emerson Mnangagwa as vice president of the country and reinstating him.

If the coup succeeds – and it seems to have met limited opposition in the country and internationally, concern has been expressed but it has not been condemned – then the expectation is that Emerson Mnangagwa will resume as vice president of the country. He would then be in effect in charge of government and Robert Mugabe may, after a short time, resign allowing the vice president to take over.

Prior to the coup Zanu PF was due to hold a congress in December. Until the coup it was expected this would remove Mnangagwa as vice president of the party and elect Grace Mugabe to that position. It is unclear if the congress will go ahead and if it does, and the coup has succeeded then Robert Mugabe may “retire” leaving Mnangagwa to be elected as president of the party.

Zimbabwe is due to hold national elections for parliament and president in 2018. If it does not then it will be in breach of its constitution. Given the turmoil in Zimbabwe some are calling for a government of national unity or transitional government for several years.

While many well welcome the demise of Mugabe, if Zimbabwe continues to be ruled in an authoritarian manner in which the institutions of the state are used to serve and promote one party, Zanu PF, then the suffering of the Zimbabwean people is likely to continue. Ordinary Zimbabweans are and have been suffering in part because the ruling party has been unable to deal with the succession to Mugabe and military leaders have been unwilling to countenance any party other than Zanu PF running Zimbabwe.

In the immediate aftermath of the coup human rights and essential freedoms need to be protected. Zimbabwe may need a period of a national unity government based on respect for human rights and the rule of law. During this period getting the economy working to create decent jobs should be of great importance, but ultimately the priority must be for the Zimbabwean people to determine their own future government through free, fair, peaceful and democratic elections.

Disclaimer: This is a blog and does not necessarily represent any agreed view by ACTSA.

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